The research of small bodies in the Solar System
The main Line Topics are Small Bodies of the Solar System. The mission is the responsibility of ESA-JAXA and the launch date is scheduled for 2017-2018.
The joint ESA-JAXA Marco Polo aims to bring back to Earth samples taken from the surface of a Near Earth Object (NEO).


Credit:  Institute of Space Sciences (ICE)

The configuration of the study involves the use of an orbiter “mother spacecraft” (equipped d instrumentation for remote sensing, the system acquisition of samples and the re-entry capsule), a lander (equipped with instrumentation for characterization of the in-situ surface and possibly a system of acquisition of samples) and a pair of “hoppers” (equipped rooms and thermometers). The identification of the site of sampling is obtained by the characterization of the object held by the mother spacecraft in orbit and in-situ measurements performed by landers and “hoppers”. The sample acquisition is through a maneuver of “touch and go” by the orbiter. The duration of the operations in proximity to the NEO is scheduled for at least three months. The mother spacecraft will head towards Earth in the atmosphere to release the capsule containing the samples.
The scientific goals of the mission go well beyond the characterization of the single celestial body object of the mission: to go back over the events that have characterized the history of the same, we want to obtain information about the origin and evolution of the Solar System. Having survived the aggregation phase that led to the formation of planets, NEOs have maintained the chemical and physical characteristics of the bricks primordial origin of the different bodies of the Solar System. Furthermore, the analysis using the equipment available on Earth of the samples, in addition to providing an answer to these questions cannot be obtained with in-situ techniques, allow to verify the recent esobiology theories whereby the complex organic molecules at the origin of the first biochemical compounds have been brought to Earth with the carbonaceous chondrites they are made of primordial asteroids.


Credit:  Institute of Space Sciences (ICE)

Italian scientists with long experience in the study of primitive bodies in the solar system and in the analysis of material of extraterrestrial origin have participated in the drafting of the proposal along with their European and Japanese contributing significantly to the definition of the scientific objectives of the mission. To date, several Italian scientists have submitted to ESA for its statement of interest to develop tools for this mission. They are listed below in summary:Mid-Infrared Specrometer PI Giancarlo Bellucci IFSI ROME; (VISTA) Volatile In Situ Thermogravimetric Analyser) PI Ernesto Palomba IFSI ROME; (NAHRIC) Narrow Angle High Resolution Imaging Camera PI Luigi Colangeli INAF NAPOLI; Sample Return Storage and Curation Facility PI John Robert Brucato INAF FLORENCE; (MAPIS) Marco Polo Imaging Spectrometer (V-NR) CO PI Cristina De Sanctis INAF ROME.
In addition, the experience gained from the development of Italy’s drill Rosetta has been taken into account for the possible acquisition device samples from the lander. And it could allow if supported with appropriate high rankings funding for the development of the system of Fast Coring planned on the Orbiter.

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